No Mere Majestic Hymn—The Garden of Earth, the Murray Darling


This content is supplied BY Rural ABC and images supplied by ‘Vita”

‘Wimmera-based author Homer Rieth sits by his fire in Minyip, western Victoria.” Wimmera-based author Homer Rieth sits by his fire in Minyip, western Victoria”

In what would have to be one of the most unusual publications on the Murray Darling Basin, a Victorian author has penned a 600-page poem about the river system.

 Victorian author Homer Rieth has penned a 600-page epic about the Murray Darling Basin. (ABC Rural)The epic feat, titled ‘The Garden of Earth’, comes after seven years of research and hand-written ponderings by Minyip-based poet Homer Rieth.’

From a young age Mr Rieth carried a burden to live up to his namesake and honour the ancient Greek poet behind epics the ‘Iliad’ and the ‘Odyssey’. Mr Rieth’s first attempt to reinvent the epic — a long, single poem — paid tribute to Victoria’s Wimmera grain belt, where he settled down to write 17 years ago.

 ‘The Garden of Earth’ comes with a strong message about the future of the Murray Darling Basin.

“The poem is addressing very real and vital, contemporary, concerns, which might come under the more broadly framed heading of climate change,” he said.

When I spit, he says, I leave more moisture on the ground than the rain out here could ever do,the likes of which are getting more seldom, more uncertain, more remote, and not to say thinner on the ground than ever — sometimes no more than a cover slip of cloud brocade— extract from ‘The Garden of Earth’

Mr Rieth hopes his book, and a complementary 120-minute piece of piano music, will influence discourse around water policy. “It is political because, unfortunately, mere hymns of praise are no longer enough,” he said.


“That’s why my poem, at many points, tries to demand of the reader that he address the future of the planet as well as simply wanting to find some poetic hymn to it..”As well as travelling extensively along the 2,520 kilometre Murray River and 1,472 km Darling River, Mr Rieth consumed as many books and reports about the river system he could find.

“I believe, without any doubt, that the poem is as valid and as comprehensive a submission that might be put to authorities who run the river systems or even political parties,” he said.

“The poem is not some far-fetched, pastel, afternoon indulgence, in the way that say a weekend painter might paint a landscape. “It’s deeply considered, over a very long period of time, and strongly argued evocation of the river systems, the landscape, the environment [and] the continent, which it lies in our power to do something about.”

 Fresh Fruit from the Yarra valley

It has taken about 14 years for Mr Rieth to complete ‘Wimmera’ and ‘The Garden of Earth’ and the author is very clear that a third epic is off the table.

“I’ve said most, if not all of what I wanted to say,” he said.”, I think two is about right — my namesake wrote two and (ancient Roman poet) Vergil only wrote one.”

ISBN:9781876044893 600 pages

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